Paris faces drastic Covid restrictions as early Monday, the health minister warned on Thursday, after indicators hit “maximum alert” levels that the government has warned could trigger a fresh clampdown.
Health minister Olivier Veran said if the maximum alert level was declared, inhabitants of the Paris area would have to “restrict social interactions in drastic manner, or at least more than at present - no more family gatherings, soirées and the closure of bars”.
The threat of a fresh clampdown, which could see bars and restaurants shut, came as Mr Véran also announced "very worrying" indicators in Lille, Lyon, Grenoble, Saint-Etienne and Toulouse. Without a drop in infections, all of these cities could also hit "maximum alert level", he warned.
However, he said that thanks to social distancing measures, testing and tracing, there were encouraging "improvements" in Nice and Bordeaux and Marseille, which "a certain number of indicators suggest we may be on the right track".
Currently Marseille is the only major city facing draconian measures that kicked in last Saturday and which include a two-week shutdown of bars, cafes and eateries along with venues open to the public. The number of people authorised to attend public festivals is reduced to 1,000 people and private groups outside to ten people.
The move sparked a furious outcry from local officials who said they had not been consulted and that there were tentative signs that infections were hitting a plateau.
Paris, notably, was expected to follow suit.
Mr Véran on Thursday confirmed that alarm bells were now ringing in the French capital.
The number of new cases now exceeds 250 per 100,000 people - on 265 - and Covid-19 patients once again making up more than 30 percent of the intake at intensive care units, at around 30 to 35 percent. The number of old people infected per 100,000 is now above 100, on 105. These are the criteria that warrant the move to “maximum alert level”.
Mr Véran said health authorities and local officials would study the figures over the weekend but that without improvements, fresh restrictions would be imposed next Monday.
Currently, Paris has a 10pm curfew on bars and restaurants and mayor Anne Hidalgo has all but ruled out total closure.
Mr Véran said that the government was working on ways of keeping them open while better respecting distancing.